Fort Smith council is on the verge of creating a bylaw that would force all residents to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle.
Council passed second reading of the bike helmet bylaw at its council meeting on May 24, after debating whether the bylaw should be applied to all residents or only children under the age of 16.
The bylaw carries a $10 fine for a first offence, $25 fine for second offence and $50 fine for third and repeat offences.
Mayor Janie Hobart was a proponent of having the bylaw apply to all residents, as were five of the councilors present at the committee of the whole meeting where the idea was discussed.
“I feel it’s important for the bylaw to be all encompassing,” Hobart said. “As adults, we should be role models. It’s just as unsafe for an adult to ride a bike as a child.”
Councillors Bernie Minute, Kevin Smith, Chris Westwell, Sheila Sauteur-Chadwick and Claudette James agreed with the decision to have the bylaw apply to everyone.
The only opposition came from councilor Brenda Johnson, who said that given only the two options she would rather see the bylaw apply to under 16.
Johnson raised the issue of enforcement, which she said would be very difficult if not impossible.
Fort Smith currently has only one bylaw officer.
Minute defended the enforcement issue, saying council will not know what the problems with enforcement might be until the actual bylaw is put in place.
“We need to separate the need to address this issue with that need for enforcement,” Minute said. “Enforcement is a specific issue to address with the bylaw officer.”
According to a fact sheet released by Safe Kids Canada, children are more likely to wear their bicycle helmets if adults around them also wear a helmet.
A recent study cited by the organization found that 95 per cent of children wore a helmet when riding with an adult wearing a helmet, compared to 40 per cent who wore a helmet while riding with an adult who was not wearing a helmet.
Safe Kids Canada also claims that all-ages legislation makes enforcement easier, as bylaw officers are not required to determine the cyclist’s age when issuing tickets.
Ontario and Alberta currently have provincial bylaws for all children under 18, while BC, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI have provincial bylaws requiring everyone to wear a helmet.
In provinces and territories without helmet bylaws, municipal governments have implemented their own rules, including an all-ages helmet bylaw in Whitehorse and Inuvik.